A new partnership will help more wounded veterans get access to and information about a potentially life changing assistance dog. PetSmart for Patriots is a joint endeavor between PetSmart and Canine Companions for Independence, in support of Canine Companions’ Wounded Veterans Initiative to help partner assistance dogs with the military veterans who need them. Since 1992, Canine Companions has placed 102 assistance dogs with military veterans, with the number of dogs placed tripling since 2008. Many of those dogs have been placed with men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned with spinal cord injuries, limb amputations and deafness. "This program is very personal to me--as a combat veteran, I know how hard it is to come back and transition to civilian life. It is that much harder to transition when you've been injured," said Bruce Thorn, PetSmart Senior Vice President of Store Operations and Services. "To be able to have a service dog who loves you unconditionally and is able to help you live a better life, is priceless." PetSmart is teaming up with Canine Companions not only financially, but also to raise awareness of assistance dogs among veterans. In the next 6-12 months, veterans with disabilities will be able to visit any PetSmart store and learn about Canine Companions and what they need to do to get their own assistance dog. In addition, a number of patriotic themed services in PetSmart stores will roll out in the summer of 2014 to honor the nation’s brave men and women in uniform. A portion of proceeds from special Grooming packages, PetsHotel® services and Training activities will benefit Canine Companions. Through Canine Companions, veterans with a wide array of physical disabilities, including non-visible injuries, may qualify to receive highly trained assistance dogs completely free of charge. Thanks to PetSmart’s efforts, more veterans will learn about this life-changing program and may ultimately benefit from it. Many veterans who are not in a wheelchair or are not amputees think that they don’t qualify for an assistance dog. There are veterans who have been through a traumatic brain injury and/or have a non-visible injury (like a back injury) who can still greatly benefit from an assistance dog.
“Canine Companions is pleased to team up with PetSmart to help expand the reach of our Wounded Veterans Initiative and ensure that all dog lovers – whether they’re veterans or not – are aware of the important work that assistance dogs can provide,” said Corey Hudson, CEO, Canine Companions for Independence and a Navy veteran. “Over 50,000 servicemen and women in the U.S. military have been wounded since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hearing loss is the most prevalent service-related disability for military veterans and an assistance dog can significantly improve these veterans’ lives.”The program officially launched at a Canine Companions graduation ceremony today in Oceanside, Calif . The ceremony included an official kick off of the program by Thorn, as well as an inspiring speech by Calvin Smith, a Marine veteran who graduated from Canine Companions’ program in 2009. Smith, who was wounded during his second tour of duty in Iraq, attended with Canine Companions Service Dog Chesney, a black Labrador with the ability to respond to over 40 commands. The ceremony capped off with 10 persons with a variety of disabilities, including a Navy veteran, receiving their new assistance dogs. PetSmart for Patriots is one of several national programs PetSmart runs under its community relations program, PetSmart Gives Back. PetSmart supports organizations that make communities a better place to call home and enrich people’s lives through the power of pets. Its other programs include:
- PetSmart Promise – which supports homeless families in keeping their pets
- PetSmart Paws for Hope – which promotes healing through therapy dogs at hospitals
- P.U.P. (Pop Up Park) – which is a portable community dog park